Canberra Choral Society
|Canberra Choral Society|
|Genre||classical and contemporary choral art music|
|Music Director||Tobias Cole|
|Choir Admission||By audition|
The Canberra Choral Society (CCS) is a symphonic choir in Canberra, the capital city of Australia that presents at least three major choral concerts each year. For sixty years it has been a leading player the musical life of the city. Its repertory covers art music of the 17th to 21st centuries. While its membership is amateur, soloists and orchestras are professional. It performs regularly with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. Its musical director is Tobias Cole.
The Canberra Choral Society originated with a small group of people who, in 1952, began singing together for their own pleasure and musical advancement. This group became known as the Canberra Choral Group and was conducted in its foundation years by Ronald Penny, Peter Bailey and Jane Malone. From its earliest days, the organisation was recognised by government authorities as an important part of the cultural development of the Capital, which, at the time of the founding of the Choral Group, had been in existence for fewer than forty years. The name was changed to The Canberra Choral Society in 1960, and the Society became an officially incorporated association in April 1962.
Works by Australian composers were commissioned by the Society for the Bicentennial Year in 1988 and for the Centenary of Federation in 2001, with support from national funding bodies. Premiere performances of works by resident Musical Directors have also been a feature of the choir's repertoire.
In 1992 the Society received a Canberra Critics' Circle award for its Fortieth Anniversary Concert program, which featured Carl Orff's Carmina Burana and the world premiere of Christopher Lyndon-Gee's Hymn for Sarum (Te Deum).
In August 1995, as part of the Australia Remembers 1945–1995 program, the Society performed Benjamin Britten's War Requiem to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, and in December 1996 presented George Frederic Handel's Messiah in celebration of the Australian National University's 50th anniversary. In September 2000, the Society participated with other major Australian and overseas choirs in the gala performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8 (Symphony of a Thousand) at the opening concert of the 2000 Summer Olympics Arts Festival.
In 2003 the Choral Society performed two versions of The Seven Last Words of Christ, by Haydn and by Dubois, Stravinsky's Les Noces and Handel's Israel in Egypt. The Society also collaborated in with three other choirs, the Llewellyn Choir, SCUNA and the Oriana Chorale in Choralaid, a combined concert to raise funds for the Canberra Bushfire Appeal. In addition the Choir joined the Orange City Choir and Orange Symphony orchestra for a performance of works by Faure and Vaughan Williams.
In May 2004 it was invited to perform Britten's St Nicholas, in the Canberra Symphony Orchestra's subscription series. Other performances in 2004 included Duruflé's Requiem and Rutter's Gloria, as well as Mozart's Vesperae Solennes de Confessore (the Solemn Vespers), K339 and Thamos, König in Ägypten (Thamos, King of Egypt), K345 in its final concert for the year.
Over the years, the choir has also participated in many opera productions in Canberra and the region including Verdi's Aida (televised on ABC TV), Vaughan Williams' The Pilgrim's Progress (the first performance in 25 years) and Bizet's The Pearl Fishers (most recently under the baton of Richard Bonynge).
In July 2010 the Society, together with Oriana Chorale, SCUNA and Llewellyn Choir, featured in a Grand Gala of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra to perform Verdi's Requiem under Nicholas Milton.
While the membership of the Society is essentially amateur, members are regularly auditioned to keep up a high standard. A professional Musical Director is engaged, and soloists and orchestral players used in performance are drawn from the professional ranks. Orchestral musicians are principally Canberra-based, while guest conductors and soloists are artists of local, national and international repute.
The Society has collaborated with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and Canberra Youth Orchestra in many presentations of major choral/orchestral works. It has also performed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra as well as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in major choral concerts, as well as working with many other groups including local adult and children's choirs and orchestras.
The Society also contributes to community events. It has performed at the Canberra Multicultural Festival and during Floriade, and on special occasions such as the opening of Parliament House. For many years, the Society provided the choir for the annual Anzac Day service held at the Australian War Memorial.
A national Choral Music Lending Scheme that facilitates provision of performing scores to over 100 member choirs across the country was instituted in 1965.
The Society has about ninety singing members, and usually presents at least three major choral concerts each year in Canberra's leading concert venues, the Canberra Theatre and, since singing in its opening concert in September 1976, Llewellyn Hall at the Canberra School of Music. Its repertoire ranges from well-known masterworks by J.S. Bach, Handel and Mozart, to less-often performed works, especially those of the twentieth century.
The Society had a proven record of performing new works by Australian composers. With assistance from the Federal Governments' arts funding body, the Australia Council, large-scale choral-orchestral compositions were commissioned by the Society for the Australian Bicentenary in 1988 (Richard Mills's Five Meditations from the Poetry of David Campbell) and for the Centenary of Federation in 2001 (Peter and Martin Wesley-Smith's Black Ribbon). Premiere performances of works by resident Musical Directors have also been a feature of the choir's repertoire. By invitation, the Society has performed in special concerts to mark significant events and anniversaries, including the opening of the new Australian Parliament House, the 50th Anniversary of World War II, the Australian National University's 50th anniversary, the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Sydney Opera House, and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Guest conductors and soloists of national and international repute who have worked with the Society include Nicholas Braithwaite, Joan Carden, Margreta Elkins, Gerald English, Donald Shanks, Clifford Grant and Tobias Cole. Over many years, the Society has collaborated with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and Canberra Youth Orchestra in many presentations of major choral/orchestral works. It has also performed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in major choral concerts, as well as working with many other groups, including local adult and children's choirs and orchestras.
The archives of the early years of the Society are held by the National Library of Australia.
- 1952–1957 Ronald Penny
- 1958–1961 Jane Malone
- 1962–1972 Wilfrid Holland
- 1972–1976 Ayis Ioannides
- 1976–1985 Donald Hollier
- 1985–1989 Hans Günter Mommer
- 1989–1993 Christopher Lyndon-Gee
- 1994–1999 Robyn Holmes
- 2000–2001 Piroska Varga
- 2001 Christoph Moor
- 2002–2003 Thomas Burge
- 2003 John Gilbert (Acting)
- 2004–2005 Judith Clingan
- 2006–2010 Peter Pocock (since 2010 with Tobias Cole as Associate Director)
- 2011– Tobias Cole
- Campbell, Peter. Canberra Choral Society: A Capital Choir for a Capital City, PC Publishing, 2002 ISBN 0958155305
- Review of ACT Arts Facilities, ACT Chief Minister's Department (Turner, ACT: Purdon Associates, July 2001)
- Canberra Times, 29 June 1954:4. "The Canberra Choral Group, which has just received a grant £30 from the A.C.T. Cultural Advisory Committee, will hold a committee meeting to-morrow night."
- Olympic Arts Festival (19 August 2000). Symphony at the Superdome. Concert program. Sydney: Playbill Pty Ltd.
- Eccles, Jeremy (22 August 2000). "Technology finds balance, finally". The Canberra Times (Canberra).
- Hince, Kenneth (4 December 1965). "Finding the Lost Chord". The Australian (Canberra).
- See list of grants in the Australia Council's Annual Report 1997–98 (Sydney: Australia Council, 1998).
- See catalogue of Manuscript collections (NLA MS 1519)